Elections

‘Growth is inevitable’: Rock Hill City Council candidates talk future of city

The Herald spoke with Rock Hill City Council candidates Derrick Lindsay and Antonio Mickel about their plans for the city.

Rock Hill’s general election is Oct. 15 for Wards 1, 2 and 3.

Councilwoman Sandra Oborokumo is not running again in Ward 1. Lindsay and Mickel are running for Oborokumo’s seat.

Here is a summary of the questions each candidate answered. Some answers have been edited for brevity.

Rock Hill has been experiencing a lot of growth and as a result, more people are coming to the area. How do you make allowance for the people who have been here a long time and may not be able to afford the area anymore? What is going to make to them?

Antonio Mickel: We’re going to call it what it is. It’s gentrification. That’s one of the issues that you have when you have growth in your city.

What you would have to do is you have to get the community involved from the very beginning. You have to get them to the decision-making table and get their input from start to finish in regards to what they want to see in their community and what needs to be done.

Derrick Lindsay: Growth is inevitable. The city doesn’t look like it looked 10 years ago. It’s going to happen. Gentrification is one of those things that has to have a delicate balance.

There’s a few things that help with gentrification -- The Homestead Act. If you’re 65 and up, the Homestead Act says your property taxes stay at a certain level. It doesn’t allow it to go up. And then there’s Act 388 that also provides some kind of securities for you so that after development happens around you, your property tax doesn’t go up as well.

Those two things in place are some of the things that will help with gentrification, but it won’t stop it. That’s why you have to have that delicate balance. And I think with my business background and being from the neighborhood, I bring that delicate balance to the table that is necessary.

Another aspect of growth is traffic. Do you think traffic impacts growth decisions and how much weight do you give to it?

Lindsay: As the city of Rock Hill, we could add infrastructure, widening the roads. But the speed limit as well. I was fortunate enough to hit the ground running. I have already been to the traffic commission on behalf of the Boyd Hill community...I was able to get the speed limit dropped from 45 from the center back to Cherry Road to 35.

The problem with traffic is you have to realize and recognize that there are three different entities when it comes to traffic problems and issues. There’s a city road. There’s the county road and then, there are state roads. You just don’t get to encroach on the other person’s road and make decisions. It’s a collaborative effort with that.

Mickel: Before you start widening roads, you have to look at traffic reports on the roads in general. You also have to look at how your signal nights are synchronized in order to keep traffic flowing. The last thing you want to do is to add lanes, add new roads because that comes with a cost. When you add new roles, it also brings in maintenance. So, you have to be aware of how that’s going to affect the budget.

Before you start adding those lanes, you need to look at all of those things in regard to how development is going to impact traffic, which comes back to traffic reports, and then looking at how traffic is flowing on our main roads. Are the traffic lights synchronized the way they should be in the keep traffic flowing?

What is one of the most consistent issues you’ve heard from constituents? And how do you plan to address that issue?

Mickel: What I’ve heard consistently from my constituents -- and I’ve knocked on over a thousand doors, so this has pretty much been consistent -- is affordable housing. People are concerned with affordable housing because they see the growth that’s occurring and in some communities, gentrification is occurring.

How I plan to address it is working with the Housing Development Corporation, and working with other council members and the mayor, and making sure that we have a comprehensive plan for affordable housing that’s going to revitalize some of our existing housing in our community, expand homeownership opportunities and to address homelessness.

Lindsay: I’ve heard affordable housing, as well as the crime, the power bills. I know affordable housing is an issue. I want to bring the balance to affordable housing and the balance is if I’m a private developer, and I come in and spend $35 million on some land, and I want to put apartments there, the city can’t regulate how much I could charge for those apartments.

The city can only regulate the land that the city owns and (the city) can put apartments on it and regulate. But you can’t regulate what a developer can do, unless you’re going to give him incentives, tax breaks, something to put that development there; to put the bill down at four, five, six, seven hundred, eight hundred dollars a month so that person can afford that apartment or that house.

If the developer doesn’t get tax incentives, why would I spend $35 million on an apartment complex or housing, and I can’t get a return on my investment?

It’s got to be a delicate balancing act. You can’t just say we’re going to create affordable housing. Who’s gonna pay the money back?

To me, that’s the business side of it that we don’t hear, which is reality.

I know there’s a workforce initiative for housing that’s some city surrounding cities are working on with a subsidy program. If the developer is going to charge $1,200 a month, and the person can afford $700, then out of the $500 difference, if there’s subsidy program, that developer maybe can get $350 of the $500 that he’s short and help with paying the bills.

Mickel: But included in that plan, you also got to include private and public partnerships as well. It’s just not going to be all on the city in there regards to developing affordable housing. You’ve got to develop those private partnerships in order to be able to come up with that plan over time for affordable housing.

You don’t do things in business not to make a profit for it. But we also have to make sure that the city has policies in place that don’t drive up the cost in housing; that make housing affordable. We need to make sure that we have zoning in place so that the land that’s available for development is ready to go.

The city can also develop land trust to where they can have control over which developers can come in and do affordable housing...We need more homeownership so that more people can have a stake in having economic mobility.

With the redevelopment of Knowledge Park and the influx of people coming in with all this growth, do you think that’s providing jobs for people already here or do you think that’s bringing in outsiders to take those jobs?

Lindsay: Both. That’s part of economic development, too...One of my concerns with that, are we -- as citizens of Rocky Hill -- are we going to have the necessary knowledge to take those jobs? We definitely need the knowledge to take those jobs. As tech jobs come and we don’t have a thousand people ready to take those tech jobs, then (the company) is going to bring them with them. And it’s not going to benefit the people that are here.

We have to make sure we know first and foremost which companies are coming, which jobs are going to be available, what education we need for those jobs.

As we develop Knowledge Park, the surrounding area is going to get more attention. Some people will get some jobs. Some people won’t. But what I don’t want to happen with Knowledge Park is that because of the surrounding areas get more attention, it’s looked upon as the next business opportunity and gentrification happens because Knowledge Park is there.

Mickel: We’ve got to make it a point to develop our homegrown talent. We’ve got to develop apprenticeship programs to develop that talent. We’ve also got to make sure that we elect community leaders and officials that are community-focused, so that when businesses come in, they feel comfortable doing business with city.

How are you going to work with the people in the community to ensure they do get those jobs?

Mickel: You have to get out and you have to engage with the community. You have to let the community know what’s going on. You have to let them know what resources are available for them, including workforce programs that are out there that will allow them to sharpen their skills or to learn a new skill in regards to having an opportunity to get those jobs that’s coming with Knowledge Park or any other businesses that is coming into the city of Rock Hill.

Lindsay: You definitely have to get the word out. One of the best things here in Rock Hill is a program York Tech has on Wilson Street. It provides trucking, carpentry, plumbing, welding. But it’s one of the best-kept secrets.

I hire kids a lot. And they come in and say, ‘Well, I want your job.’ Great. Give me 10 years and you can have my job. They don’t want 10 years. They don’t want to put the work in. We’re facing that with the community as well. They want the job, but they don’t want to put the work in for the job.

This comes with accountability across the board. If you want that job, then you gotta put sweat equity in it.

What do you anticipate the impact of the Panthers coming to Rock Hill will be?

Lindsay: It’s going to create everything we just talked about: economic development. It’s going to create traffic. With economic development comes more crime.

But it’s going to create some jobs and opportunities, too. I remember when, what was it? The Hornets left Charlotte, all the subsidiary companies around it dried up. And how many people were laid off, without a job? Like three weeks later, places dried up, gone. Until the team came back, then those companies came back.

But with the Carolina Panthers coming here, it’s going to create some jobs. It’s going to creates opportunities. It’s going to create some other problems and issues, too. But I’m pretty sure we may have to deal with those as they come.

Mickel: The Panthers is going to be huge for the city of Rock Hill from the ground up, to over a period of time, to its completion. I want to an advocate for how local businesses can take advantage of the opportunity that the Panthers headquarters is going to bring here, from small businesses to minority businesses, how those businesses can take advantage of that opportunity to be a part of the success that the headquarters is going to bring here.

When you go out and talk with people, and you share your platforms, what is that reason that people say to you, ‘I’m going to vote for you because of this...? I know that I can trust you as my council person because you’ve promised me this ...?’

Lindsay: Well with me, I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for 20 years now. I just didn’t pop up on the scene yesterday saying, ‘I want to be city council.’ Like I said, I was being groomed. I’ve been involved with Boys and Girls Club; been involved with Weed and Seed; been involved with City Hall on numerous occasions. I’ve influenced things around the community in a direct or indirect way.

The people that are telling me that they’re going to vote for me, didn’t see me yesterday. They didn’t see me last month. They didn’t see me five years ago. They saw me 20 years ago.

I’ve been doing a lot of work for a very long time behind the scenes. Now is my time to step from behind the scenes and be elevated to a different level to do it on.

Mickel: My grandmother has a saying she used to say to me all the time: May the work that I’ve done speak for me. So I’ve done a lot in the community as far as mentoring kids when I was a professor Clinton College; as far as getting street repairs done within my community. I just roll up my sleeves and just do to work.

Three consecutive terms on the York County Board of Assessment Appeals, making sure that everybody pay their fair share as far as property taxes -- I’ve been serving.

Community service and leadership is what I stand on. And I always tell everybody that I go out and speak to that it’s not about me, it’s about us. As far as the reasons why people are going to get out and vote for me is because they know that I’m not doing it for myself. I’m doing it for them.

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The full interview is posted on The Herald’s Facebook page.

Voting for Rock Hill’s general election of Ward 1, 2 and 3 closes at 7 p.m. on Oct. 15. Absentee voting opened Sept. 16.

Lindsay and Mickel are running for Ward 1. Incumbent Kathy Pender and newcomer Keith Dyer are running for Ward 2. Incumbent Kevin Sutton is running unopposed for Ward 3.

Pender said she could not participate in a Facebook live interview “due to time constraints.” The Herald could not reach Dyer in time for publication.

In order to vote in the Rock Hill general election, voters need to be registered in the city of Rock Hill and need to live in the ward they are voting for, Beth Covington, spokesperson for the York County elections office, said.

People can check voter registration on the state’s election site.

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